Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beverly Cleary

reading next: Breathe my Name

Why, hello there, world, look who is still alive! A really nasty college rejection, losing my voice, and then getting a stomach virus have kept me from updating (not to mention READING O:) but I do believe I'm back! This is kind of a filler post, kind of me revisiting my childhood. I went to the library a while ago and picked out a bunch of Beverly Cleary's books that I hadn't read and decided I should do just that. So, here are my thoughts/mini-reviews, and I do hope you enjoy.

Muggie Maggie

I found moments of this book that read much like Frindle, so that was really neat. Maggie was a very relatable character--show me one person who actually liked the cursive-writing units in school! Back then, I'm sure people actually used it, but still. Such a waste of time for a lot of illegible scribblings! It's a very short book, read in its entirety while my mom drove home from the library, and yet, within 70 pages, Cleary managed to create a fully developed, highly memorable character in Maggie. The charm that was lacking highly in Dear Mr. Henshaw and Strider made an awesome reappearance here! Cute!

Rating: 5/5

Ellen Tebbits

I was a little put-off about all the 'underwear discussion' at the beginning of this one, although it certainly is the kind of thing a child would obsess over. Still, slightly awkward to read about it when you're a bit older (I knew I should have read these as a kid!). This book really brings out the charm of Ramona and was a highly hilarious read, while at the same time, as all of Cleary's books, being fully relatable (first succesful egg break, everyone?) and teaching valuable life lessons. I thought the ending fully wrapped everything up and was absolutely sweet, and I was glad to see that it went back to the very heart of the story: Ellen and Austine.

Rating: 5/5

Otis Spofford

I was thrilled to find out that Otis Spofford was kind of a spin-off companion book to Ellen Tebbits (although it took me a while to figure out which I should read first :P). One of the first things I noticed was that it continued Cleary's tradition of sorts of having oddly named characters, adding much of the quirky charm for her books. Overall, I liked the book, not much more to say that I haven't already said re: Ellen Tebbits and the others--well written, incredibly relatable, and this one has the bonus of featuring a male protagonist as well. As for specifics, I loved that Otis (and Ellen) interfered in the class science experiment--too cute! I did find the scene where bug-killing was explicitly described a little blechh to my squeamish stomach (didn't help that I was already nauseated!) and while I'm sure some kids would enjoy this scene, I know others would really rather not read that. I also found some of the imagery surrounding Native Americans highly objectionable. Other than that, cute ending that tied up both Otis and Ellen very well.

Rating: 4/5

Emily's Runaway Imagination

Overall, not nearly as enjoyable as all the other books. While Emily is still a relatable character, this book is dated; such as references to most people not having cars, or the fact that back then, a dollar was a LOT to a kid. I did like how she handled Fong's character--added some much-needed life & diversity to the book, as well as giving Emily a very interesting relationship with another character, while I felt for the most of the book, she was a really 2D character. She's just a gossipy little girl in a gossipy little town, making for a slightly repetitive, boring story. Also, a word of warning to parents, there are references to drunkenness, not sure many parents would like their kids reading about that. Quite a disappointment...

Rating: 2.5/5

Mitch and Amy

I REALLY liked this one. A lot. A lot a lot. It was a great portrayal of twins, and I'm sure any twins reading would have gotten a kick out of it. Again, classic Ramona-type material/humor. The alternating chapters were great, and surprisingly for once, I found myself relating to the male character, Mitch, more than Amy, who struck me as kind of a stuck up spoiled brat. The problems the twins deal with are common ones, though, particularly the bully problem ("He's the type who's nice to grown ups but not to kids." How many of us know a person like that?) Minor detail, I adored that the kids considered "school" a bad word, I would have definitely done that as a kid. The only thing I disliked was the ending--I felt some more resolution, a more significant scene, was needed between the twins.

Rating: 5/5

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